The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the practice field at the new One Buccaneer Place Wednesday to prepare for their first opponent of the 2006 regular season – the Baltimore Ravens.
The Bucs also released their official injury report, and it revealed that the team isn't as healthy as first thought heading into Sunday's game at Raymond James Stadium.
Three starters – guard Davin Joseph and Dan Buenning, and linebacker Shelton Quarles – are listed as questionable on the injury report, which means they have a 50 percent chance of playing in the Bucs' regular season opener.
Buenning, who started all 17 games at left guard for the Bucs last season, did not practice Wednesday and still is recovering from a sprained ankle he sustained in the first quarter of Tampa Bay's preseason finale vs. Houston.
"No he didn't [practice], but he's making much improvement," said Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. "There is a chance he will play in this game."
Joseph, Tampa Bay's 2006 first-round draft pick, suffered a knee injury during Wednesday's practice, which was why he was added to the injury report. Before the injury, Joseph was projected to make his first start in a regular season game at right guard for the Bucs.
Should Joseph not be able to play vs. Baltimore, G Sean Mahan, who started all 17 games at right guard for the Bucs last season, or G Jeb Terry would start in his place.
"Mahan started every game at guard last year, and Jeb Terry has been around here," said Gruden. "We do have some candidates that can play guard, so the show goes on. We'd like to have a healthy team, but everybody has questionable players at this time. There's a chance these guys could play."
Quarles, who spent a significant amount of time in training and preseason resting, is working through a groin injury. Should he be unable to play, second-year LB Barrett Ruud would make his first career start in a regular season game in Quarles' place.
Bucs Deem Ravens Quarterback Dangerous One of the reasons why many pundits are picking the Baltimore Ravens to be a playoff team in 2006 is because of the addition they made at quarterback this offseason.
The Ravens landed former Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair, who brings a significant amount of experience, leadership and playmaking ability to Baltimore's offense.
"Winner, great competitor," Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said when asked what comes to mind when he thinks of McNair. "Winner, great competitor. You could say that over and over. I've been a big fan of Steve's for a long time. He's a winner, and he's a great competitor, there's no question."
McNair, 33, has started 131 of the 139 career games he's played in since entering the NFL as a first-round pick of the Houston Oilers in 1995. He has since completed 60 percent of his passes and thrown for 27,141 yards and tossed 156 touchdowns and 101 interceptions.
Tampa Bay's defense, which ranked No. 1 overall in 2005, realizes it will have its hands full with the 6-foot-2, 230-pound McNair, who turned in an impressive preseason with the Ravens.
"I think he's come in and given the offense a tremendous boost of confidence," Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks said of McNair. "The Ravens' team has been so defensive-driven these past few years, and I think Steve brings a weapon there, an air of confidence. He's had success in this league that the offensive players can gravitate to and rally around. I think having him there has really enhanced the weapons they already have. You could tell in the preseason that they seem to be playing with a lot more energy on offense. He's making his plays and he's really stepped into a leadership role for them already."
Bucs Have Respect For Ravens Defense Tampa Bay's offense, which finished the 2005 regular season ranked 23rd overall, believes it will be more productive in 2006, especially since it has all 11 starters back from last season.
"We expect big things," Bucs quarterback Chris Simms said. "We're not going to go crazy out there, like you all know. We've got the best defense in the NFL, but as an offensive unit we're extremely confident in what we can do and we're just going to feel the game out and try to go from there. We're going to try to run Cadillac Williams and try to get some of these players on our offense the ball and let them do their thing."
But the Bucs offense has its work cut out Sunday when the Ravens, who finished the '05 regular season with the 5th-ranked defense in the NFL, invade Raymond James stadium to clash with the Bucs, as head coach Jon Gruden explained to the media on Wednesday.
"It's a very complex scheme," Gruden said of Baltimore's defense. "[Defensive end Terrell] Suggs plays everywhere, [linebacker Adalius] Thomas has played free safety or anywhere on the field. They have this guy named [Linebacker] Ray Lewis that makes them go. He's a fire breather. They've added Trevor Pryce. Their two corners of [Samari] Rolle and [Chris] McAllister are a great tandem. Nobody that I've ever talked doesn't think [Ed] Reed isn't the top strong safety in the game. They have great players and they mix it with a lot of juice, strong side blitzes, weak side blitzes, and the 46 package will be here Sunday."
Quote Of The Day Bucs defensive tackle Anthony McFarland on opening the season at home
"Any time you get a chance to have an opener, it's big, and a home opener takes it to a different level. Last year we opened up on the road against Minnesota, and this year we get to open up in our own house, open up a new facility. We've got to make sure we do our part as a team, and we've been prepared so far, and I think the work we do through today and tomorrow will continue to help us do that."